Friday, January 28, 2011

Review: Darklight by Lesley Livingston

Hardcover, 312 pages
Published December 22nd 2009 by HarperTeen
ISBN13: 9780061575402

Much has changed since autumn, when Kelley Winslow learned she was a Faerie princess, fell in love with changeling guard Sonny Flannery, and saved the mortal realm from the ravages of the Wild Hunt.

Now Kelley is stuck in New York City, rehearsing Romeo and Juliet and missing Sonny more with every stage kiss, while Sonny has been forced back to the Otherworld and into a deadly game of cat and mouse with the remaining Hunters and Queen Mabh herself.

When a terrifying encounter sends Kelley tumbling into the Otherworld, her reunion with Sonny is joyful but destined to be cut short. An ancient, hidden magick is stirring, and a dangerous new enemy is willing to risk everything to claim that power.

Caught in a web of Faerie deception and shifting allegiances, Kelley and Sonny must tread carefully, for each next step could topple a kingdom . . . or tear them apart.

With breathtakingly high stakes, the talented Lesley Livingston delivers soaring romance and vividly magical characters in Darklight, the second novel in the trilogy that began with Wondrous Strange.
I read Wondrous Strange last year and really enjoyed it but for some reason, I didn't jump right into Darklight right away. I think I had too much on the go at the time. But then I got Tempestuous, the last book in this series by Lesley Livingston, for review and I knew I had to catch up with what was happening with Kelley Winslow, Sonny Flannery, et al. Am I ever glad I did!

Reading Darklight reminded me why I had been captivated with the first book: the way Ms. Livingston writes. These books are considered Young Adult, but I don't find the writing overly simplistic, nor are the scenarios involved, drawn with no small measure of tribute to Shakespeare, dull. The story moves from modern day New York to the Otherworld quite seamlessly. It's in the descriptions that the author outdoes herself; you can almost feel the difference in the contrasts of the "concrete jungle" versus the lush, verdant Summer Court or the icy majesty of the Winter Court, and so on. This lends some credence to the legends of mortals being tricked into Faery submission. Really, who wouldn't want to live in such a magickal place, where death is rare?

With a blend of New Yorkers and Faery royalty, Livingston will competently maintain the pompous talk of Kings and Queens, then throw in a word like "ass-hat" that makes you giggle at the juxtaposition. I found her use of metaphors quite entertaining also. She writes on page 227, "So many thoughts and questions tumbled about in her head like puzzle pieces in a box shaken by a child who just wanted to hear them rattle." This is a fantastic image and avoids the typical reference to "deafening silence" etc.

It has been a while since reading Wondrous Strange, but I think I liked Darklight better than the first. Maybe the climactic scene at the theatre or the mystery surrounding Fennrys or Auberon's ailment or the hooded figure's identity, or the combination of all of these that made this an exciting read. Being the middle book of a series can sometimes be a detriment, but not in Darklight's case. It has plenty to keep you interested, not just acting as a bridge to the last book (though there is some bridging of the story involved).

I'm not sure that I would recommend it as a stand alone book, but that's just because I love this series and I think everyone should read all of the books as soon as possible. I give Lesley Livingston two very large thumbs up, and move on to Tempestuous with a bit of a heavy heart as I know the story will end there.

To get a little more info on Tempestuous (and its author), my interview with Lesley can be found here.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Review and Guest Post: Queen of Last Hopes by Susan Higginbotham

It would be called the Wars of the Roses, but it all began with one woman's fury...

Margaret of Anjou, Queen of England, cannot give up on her husband-even when he goes insane. And as mother to the House of Lancaster's last hope, she cannot give up on her son-even when all England turns against him. This gripping tale of a queen is at its heart a tender tale of love: passionate, for her husband, and motherly, for her only son.

Having delved into the history of Britain quite a bit recently, I was very much looking forward to reading about Margaret of Anjou and her role in the War of the Roses. I have read a version of the story from the (ficticious) perspective of Margaret Beaufort, but to get a better picture of things, you need to look at all sides involved. I do believe this was the perfect book to illustrate the struggles of the doomed Henry VI and his Queen!

Ms. Higginbotham does a masterful job of presenting characters that are likeable (or in some cases, detestable) within realistic boundaries. It must be an interesting job to research the real people involved and all the historical "truths" available to us today. But, on the other hand, it would be quite daunting to expound on these people while maintaining the overall credibility. I found that some of the those involved in this story were portrayed in a sympathetic manner, where popular beliefs may disagree with this author's view or portrayal, for instance William de la Pole. When it all boils down though, this story was the beginning of a war with factions involved, and alliances would still be argued one way or the other, even today.

I was immediately drawn to Margaret of Anjou, her innocence, her growth and her sense of humour. Unfortunately, this makes it that much harder to relive her story throughout these pages. Ultimately, one cannot change history, but what Ms. Higginbotham succeeded at in Queen of Last Hopes, was offer a compelling version with a lot of heart and no small amount of tears from me.

And now a special treat for my readers! Please give a big welcome to Susan Higginbotham, who is here today to give the inside scoop on how she was able to write this story from the perspective of the former Queen of England:

When I started writing The Queen of Last Hopes: The Story of Margaret of Anjou, I chose to tell most of Margaret’s story through her own first-person narrative. How did I find a voice for Margaret?

Margaret of Anjou was queen to Henry VI and one of the leading figures in the so-called Wars of the Roses that ravaged fifteenth-century England. She left behind a number of business letters, most from the early years of her husband’s reign. They show the young queen’s energy and attention to detail, and her interest in activities such as hunting, but they reveal very little of Margaret’s inner life.

It was the last document Margaret executed—her will—where I finally felt her speak to me. Written at her borrowed lodgings in France about three weeks before her death in August 1482, the will is a simple one, reflecting the relative poverty of a woman who had gambled and lost all. There are no expressions of regret and no reflections on past glory. There are no affectionate words or bequests to loved ones, for almost everyone who mattered to Margaret—her only son, her husband, her parents—had predeceased her. Margaret simply requests that her debts be paid and that her servants receive their wages. She then asks that the French king, her heir, pay these obligations “should my few goods be insufficient to do this, as I believe they are.”

Yet in this short will (which can be seen at, Margaret does show a spark of defiance. In the opening line, she styles herself as “reyne d'Angleterre”—Queen of England. It was a title she had lost eleven years before in the bloody field of Tewkesbury where her son perished and the Lancastrian cause seemed permanently extinguished, yet in her last written statement, she allowed herself the small satisfaction of using it. Dying and destitute, she nonetheless refused at the very last to concede total defeat.

This was the Margaret—stoic and reconciled to her fate, yet with some of her old pride remaining—who narrates The Queen of Last Hopes. This was the Margaret who lent my novel her voice.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Review: First Step 2 Forever by Justin Bieber

Billed as "100% Official," this very generously illustrated autobiography chronicles the early years and dizzying success of this teen-pop heartthrob in his own words and pictures. The staggering dimensions of his story should silence any skepticism about the worth of any autobiography of a 16-year-old#58; Since being discovered just three years ago, this small-town Ontario boy has gone platinum with his first album; drawn more than 70 million YouTube hits and four million Twitter followers; and caused crowd scenes and near riots on his World Tour. Sometimes just too cute for words.

Before you all collectively roll your eyes at further Justin Bieber exposure, read on to find out why I think this book is a worthwhile investment.

On a typical day, a conversation with my 8 year old daughter goes like this:

Daughter: "Mom, what's Justin Bieber's favourite ice cream?"


My dad: "It's chocolate."

Me: How do you know that?!"

My Dad: "I saw it on TV..."

Daughter: "Yay! Same as me!"

So, as much as I would be rolling my own eyes at yet another JB product, I like that fact that I can now say: "go check the book for the answer" to my daughter (and pray that all her questions can be answered by this resource, lol.)

Aside from that, it has tons of great pictures in it AND lots to read. Unfortunately, my daughter is still at the age that she likes to read out loud. This can be a double edged sword in that she will sit down and read First Step 2 Forever for 20-30 minutes at a time (which is great!) but I have to hear it too. Gosh, the things we do for our kids....

It is not at an easy reading level for her but it pushes her skills and her interest in new words (okay, so she has learned sexy and pimp-mobile from it, but those are nothing that she hasn't since seen on public bathroom walls, but that's a story for another day...)

In the end, I think, if your child is a fan, this book is a must-have for their collection, not just to have but to further their interest in reading in a parentally devious way, also ;-)

If you are still unconvinced, here are some sample readings from the book. Enjoy:

Waiting on Wednesday - Jan. 19, 2011

Waiting on Wednesday is weekly event is hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine where we get to share which upcoming reads/new releases that we just can't wait to get our hands on. Looking back through my blog posts, I haven't participated in this meme since March 2010! There are so many upcoming books that I'm anxious to read that I figured it was time to start sharing them again.

My pick for this week is:

Red Glove by Holly Black

Red Glove is part of The Curse Workers series (my review for White Cat can be found here). I'm curious to see how this story will continue with the rich characters and dark world created in the first book; there is just so much deception and intrigue involved that keeping Cassel (mostly) honest will be a difficult task, I think.

It's set to release April 5, 2011 from Margaret K. McElderry (a division of Simon & Schuster)

Monday, January 17, 2011

Interview with Lesley Livingston!

Thanks to Shannon at Harper Collins Canada, I was given the opportunity to interview Lesley Livingston, author of Wondrous Strange, Darklight, and, most recently, Tempestuous. I met Lesley at a book signing last year, so I know she's a vibrant, fun woman (and Canadian also ;-).  What fascinates me is this author's ability to make readers almost giddy to read Shakespeare again! (Not many can take credit for that feat.)  Lesley's enthusiasm is contagious, I think....but read on and see for yourself:

Can you tell the readers a bit about what to expect from Tempestuous?

Well… I don’t want to be all spoilery for anyone so… in no particular order, I’ll just list a few things readers can expect. Things that may or may not occur in this book: kissing, heartbreak, turmoil, kick-assery, Shakespeare, reunions, separations, reconciliations, vengeance, retribution, redemption, betrayal, kissing, magick, humour, hi-jinx, shenanigans, fighting, battles, skirmishes, fisticuffs, feathers, true love, heartache, blood, sweat, tears, flying, singing, and pretzels with mustard.

Will King Auberon ever show his nice side? Wait! Does he even have one?

Auberon is certainly a… shall we say… multi-faceted character. He has a nice side—I guarantee it. He may even have already shown it. The problem is that, his “nice” side might not exactly resemble what the average person thinks of as “nice”. With Faerie—especially High Fae—it’s always a bit tricky trying to figure out precisely what’s going on in their minds. There. How’s that for a perfectly straightforward answer?

The portal between the human and the Faery Otherworld is in Central Park, but you mention others too. Are any of them in Canada, and if so, where?

There are Four Gates between the Otherworld and the mortal realm and they correspond with the four points of the Celtic calendar. They are—or at least, when they were open, they were—movable, which is why one of them ended up in the middle of New York City. Another is in Ireland, and one is located at Stonehenge. But there is one Gate that I only ever describe as existing in “the far north”. I never specify the far north of where. And there is, after all, a strong tradition of faerie culture in the Canadian Maritimes, so it’s a definite possibility. I suppose I could be a little less obscure with my answer, but the Faerie do like to keep their secrets… and I really don’t want them mad at me!

With your background in Arthurian legend and in Shakespeare's work, how much additional research did you have to do for the books? Was there anything new you learned?

I learned a lot! Mostly about the history and background behind the design and construction of Central Park at the turn of the century. I had to do quite a bit of research into that aspect of the story, and it was fascinating! I was pretty solid on my Shakespeare and the hints of Arthurian lore I used but, even still, there was always some surprising bit of faerie trivia, or a line in one of the plays, or some obscure nugget of folkloric detail that I would stumble across that would enrich the story—or suddenly make something make perfect sense. Discovering certain aspects of leprechaun lore, for instance, was enormously helpful when it came time to deal with those guys. And they had to be dealt with extremely carefully, it turns out! Just ask Sonny…

What is your favourite Shakespearean role to play?

Ooh… tough question! In the comedies, it’s Beatrice from Much Ado About Nothing! Smart, sassy, and surprisingly vulnerable. In the tragedies… well, Juliet was wonderful to play, but so was her Nurse (not in the same production—heh!). And then there’s Ophelia, and Lady Macbeth… I mean, let’s face it: any time you have the opportunity to go stark raving bonkers on stage, well—there’s almost nothing more fun than that! Ariel was a joy to play, too—although I think I still have glitter-dust floating around in my lungs, even after all these years, because of that show!

With your company, the Tempest Theatre Group, have you ever had to act in a male role?

I did, actually! I played the Boy in the Henry V and it was huge fun. I got to be in all the battle scenes and had a quarter-staff fight (I love stage combat)… and then got my throat cut horribly at the end when the French soldiers kill all the luggage boys. Henry then carried my poor limp, lifeless (stage-bloodied) body down to centre stage where all the hardened warriors wept over me and then sang Non Nobis… all very poignant!

What is your take on the conspiracy theory of Shakespeare's identity?

Shakespeare was Shakespeare. His “true” identity never came into question until the 19th century and all that speculation has always struck me as a mostly hot air. I’m still not sure why everyone thinks it’s such a stretch to believe that the guy was who he was, regardless of education or social standing. He just happened to be a freakin’ genius, that’s all.

With Tempestuous being the final book in this trilogy, do you have your next project planned out? Can we have a hint?

Well, my very next project is a YA time travel adventure called ONCE EVERY NEVER, about a modern teen girl who spirals back in time to Rome's bloody conquest of Britain—where she befriends the daughter of a fiery queen, falls for a fierce warrior prince, and discovers that she may be the only hope of averting a devastating blood-curse. It’s great fun—and there are flaming arrows!

I’m also hard at work on another trilogy called STARLING and… all I can say is, if you’re a fan of the WONDROUS STRANGE books… you should probably keep an eye out for these in 2012! Yes. Yes, you should.

Thank you for such fun questions!

I want to say thanks again to Lesley for taking the time to answer my questions. I hope that her answers have inspired any of you out there that haven't picked her books to do so...and soon! I'll be posting my reviews of Darklight and Tempestuous shortly, so keep an eye out for them. In the meantime, you can click on the book covers below for Harper Collins Canada's "Browse Inside" feature, and get a taste of what you've been missing, as well as check out the teaser trailer for Tempestuous. As for me, I off to hunt down a warm pretzel with some mustard. Thanks for stopping by!

Friday, January 14, 2011

Review: The Education of Hailey Kendrick by Eileen Cook

Product Details:
Simon Pulse, January 2011
Hardcover, 272 pages
ISBN-10: 1442413255
ISBN-13: 9781442413252
Grades: 9 and up

Hailey Kendrick always does exactly what's expected of her. She has the right friends, dates the perfect boy, gets good grades, and follows all the rules. But one night, Hailey risks everything by breaking a very big rule in a very public way...and with a very unexpected partner in crime. Hailey gets caught, but her accomplice does not, and Hailey takes the fall for both of them.

Suddenly, Hailey's perfect life--and her reputation--are blowing up in her face. Her friends are all avoiding her. Her teachers don't trust her. Her boyfriend won't even speak to her for long enough to tell her that she's been dumped.

They say honesty is the best policy--but some secrets are worth keeping, no matter the cost. Or are they?

From the first chapter, I really enjoyed the flow of Eileen Cook's writing. There was a great balance of teen elements that did not seem either so harsh or so pure that they were unrealistic. I also really liked the main character here. Despite attending an elite school, Hailey was focused on a real career. She was aware of having privileges but wasn't one to flaunt them. This fictional character felt genuine to me....complete with fallabilities.

With Hailey doing her best to keep a tight lip on her own feelings and trying to please everyone else, it was only a matter of time before it all blew up. I think this made her easy to identify with... at least for me. The problem with this type of person...the one that holds it all that when it lets loose, that fallout can be dangerous. I was actually ticked off with Hailey for how her actions affected Tristan; he seemed like such a nice guy!

But, in the end, Hailey had her own lessons to learn and part of it was that, sometimes, other people get hurt and you can't avoid it forever. It was fun to watch this learning curve in action, though. The character of Drew was a very welcome addition to the mix. The Education of Hailey Kendrick was, for me, a quick, enjoyable read with some quirky humour and lots of relatable emotions.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

In the news...

A while back it was announced that Little, Brown would be releasing The Twilight Saga: The Official Illustrated Guide on April 12, 2011. Their description of the book includes:
This definitive encyclopedic reference to the Twilight Saga is the only official guide and is full color throughout, including nearly 100 full-color illustrations and photographs.

Now, there's more exciting news for the die-hard Twilight fans! Here is the Press Release:

TORONTO (January 12, 2011) – Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, a division of Hachette Book Group, will host a special International Fan Event, featuring Twilight fans from around the world. Ten fans will be chosen to have a once-in-a-lifetime intimate meeting with international bestselling author Stephenie Meyer. The event coincides with the upcoming release of The Twilight Saga: The Official Illustrated Guide (April 12, 2011; $26.99).

Little, Brown is partnering with the Twilight Saga publishers in Brazil, China, France, Germany, Italy, Mexico, Taiwan and the United Kingdom to bring together each country’s respective Twilight fan. The fan selected from each country will receive an advance copy of The Official Illustrated Guide and get to talk extensively with Meyer, who will answer their Twilight-related questions.

“The one thing I miss most about my first book tour was the chance I had then to spend quality time with my readers,” said Meyer. “At an event with just ten or twenty people, I was able to get to know everyone a little bit. I could also more effectively answer each person’s questions. I’m so excited to have that opportunity again, and to get to spend time with fans from many different places and backgrounds.”

“We receive hundreds of travel requests for Stephenie from our foreign publishing partners every year,” said Megan Tingley, Senior Vice President and Publisher of Little, Brown Books for Young Readers. “Since it is physically impossible for one author to be in so many places, we thought this would be a great way to bring some fans to her.”

The Official Rules for the sweepstakes to select the fan from Canada (as well as one from the US), including entry details and eligibility requirements, can be found on

Due to the intimate nature of this event, details regarding the location and timing are being kept confidential. Photos and additional details will be distributed upon the event’s conclusion.

The Twilight Saga: The Official Illustrated Guide provides readers with exclusive new material and everything they need to further explore the unforgettable world Stephenie Meyer created in Twilight, New Moon, Eclipse, Breaking Dawn and The Short Second Life of Bree Tanner. The Guide also includes character profiles, outtakes, a conversation with Meyer, genealogical charts, maps, extensive cross-references, and much more. Originally announced as “The Official Guide,” The Twilight Saga: The Official Illustrated Guide includes illustrations from several artists, including Young Kim, the illustrator behind the #1 New York Times bestselling Twilight: The Graphic Novel, Volume 1.

In five years, Stephenie Meyer has become a worldwide publishing phenomenon. The Twilight Saga’s translation rights have been sold in nearly 50 countries and 116 million copies have been sold worldwide.

Hachette Book Group (HBG) is a leading trade publisher based in New York and a division of Hachette Livre, the second-largest publisher in the world. HBG publishes under the divisions of Little, Brown and Company, Little Brown Books for Young Readers, Grand Central Publishing, FaithWords, Center Street, Orbit, and Hachette Digital.

What an opportunity! Go check out the website for more info, or enter from here:
US residents or Canadian residents. Good luck!

Monday, January 10, 2011

Review: The Poison Eaters by Holly Black

Book details:
Margaret K. McElderry, March 2011
Trade Paperback, 224 pages
ISBN-10: 1442412321
ISBN-13: 9781442412323
Grades: 9 and up

A dark and fantastic collection of stories from the author of Tithe and The Spiderwick Chronicles.

First Impression:
Is the smiling girl on the cover responsible for the death of the boy in the bottom left corner? (Yes, I thought it was a boy but after reading the story, I know I was wrong.)

Lasting Impression?:
Holly Black is one macabre, twisted author...and I like it!


Two of the stories are original to this collection, the others having been previously printed in various compilations. But let me tell you, Holly Black leaves no supernatural stone unturned here. Lovestruck faeries, vampires, werewolves are just a few of the characters featured in The Poison Eaters. My favourite story involved a young man looking for his girlfriend in an unusual place. I like books, I mean I really like them, but perhaps not as much as this woman did!

For me, I liked the constant change of pace. You were never in the same location twice; one story was somewhere in the Philippines then another in the underbelly of a big city, and so on. The characters were surprising and, sometimes, quite dark.

I think the short story is an excellent platform for this author in particular. While some of the stories told an entire tale and ended with a satisfactory conclusion, others left enough mystery about the eventual outcome of the people involved to make you want more. Ms. Black leaves you mystified but most definitely sated.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Book trailer: Desires of the Dead by Kimberly Derting

I think for me, Desires of the Dead by Kimberly Derting is my most anticipated book for 2011. I really enjoyed The Body Finder and can't wait to get my hands on this next book in the series. Though the release date (according to Goodreads) isn't scheduled until Feb. 15, 2011, I'm happy to share the book trailer here as a bit of a teaser. I hope you enjoy :-)

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Review: Side Jobs by Jim Butcher

Book Details:
432 pages
ISBN 9780451463654
26 Oct 2010
18 - AND UP

As Chicago's only professional wizard, Harry Dresden has had cases that have pitted him against insane necromancers, power-hungry faerie queens, enigmatic dark wizards, fallen angels—pretty much a "who's who" of hell and beyond—with the stakes in each case ranging from a lone human soul to the entire human race.

But not every adventure Harry Dresden undertakes is an epic tale of life and death in a world on the edge of annihilation.

Here, together for the first time, are the shorter works of #1 New York Times bestselling author Jim Butcher—a compendium of cases that Harry and his cadre ofa llies managed to close in record time. With tales ranging from the deadly serious to the absurdly hilarious—including an all-new never-before-published story—this is a must-have collection for every devoted Harry Dresden fan.

First Impression:
Each story in this book is preceded by a few words from Jim Butcher, explaining how the story came to be and his thoughts on the story in question. It also lists where it was originally published and where each story would fit in the overall timeline of Harry Dresden (ie. between which books). This is a great feature.

Lasting Impression?:
Harry Dresden just might be my new literary crush! At 6 1/2 feet tall with a sense of humour and self-admitted fallible nature, he seems almost perfect...apart from the fact that he's not real and seems to like much, much older women (centuries old).


I knew I wanted to read Jim Butcher's series about a wizard detective but hadn't had the opportunity until now. I have to say, I truly enjoyed delving into the world of Harry Dresden. He is a tough man (you'd have to be to battle with trolls, vampires and other scary paranormal creatures) with a sensitive side. He has no problem laughing at himself, which in turn, makes the reader laugh too.

The world that Jim Butcher has created is very cool. With small details, like Harry's powers creating problems with electricity, make his existence almost plausible. The fact that he uses a Mickey Mouse alarm clock just adds to his adorable factor. Plus, why his brother needs to pretend to be a gay hairdresser is something I will need to find out more about (hopefully that information is out there). I didn't feel like I was missing out on anything, which was nice. Each story featured a tidbit about Harry's wizard powers, how things work and why, which made for smooth reading

All in all, I really enjoyed this collection of stories; they gave me enough of a glimpse into the Dresden Files to want me to read more of them...ok ALL of them! If you like paranormal with a hint of humour, you'll like this book too.
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